Hi, I did a major trip with my son when he was 9 months old, so I’m guessing the logistics won’t be that much different for a 12 month old.
While I wouldn’t say it went smoothly (the logistics of dealing with TSA and getting in and out of the airport are a bit nightmarish), but being trapped in a plane with a baby wasn’t the horror I had imagined it would be. (I’m facing a trip with the same kid now that he’s 2.5 years old. Hard to say if that’s better or worse.)
The flight length/distance was similar to yours. It was a cross country flight with one layover. I have to fly during the day because I can’t sleep on a plane. Hope that goes better for you.
Definitely plan on nursing him during takeoffs and landing, it works pretty good, IMO. Sucking in general helps a whole lot with the ear pressure thing. Bring plenty of water for you—nursing a baby + being on an airplane leads to incredible dehydration!!! I’m a cheapskate, so I bring an empty liter-sized water bottle in my carry on, and fill it up after I get through security.
Even though it’s not encouraged, the lap thing might work out for you. The upside of baby in lap is you don’t have to pay full price for another ticket. The downside is kids squirm, and you can’t put the tray down in front of you with a baby in your lap. I am poor as dirt, so I did not splurge for the extra seat (more safety minded folks can flame me if you like, I can live with it). My kid was squirmy but not unbearably so. Luckily the seat next to us was vacant some of the time, so I didn’t necessarily have to have him in my lap the whole time. He was content to stay in the seat (mostly) with the seatbelt on, either in my lap, or in an empty seat next to me. A few times other people (kindly grandmotherly types and some of the flight attendants) wanted to hold him, so I was like, whatever, go for it. (He was a real cute outgoing baby and people were always wanting to hold him, which I didn’t really mind).
The hardest part, and the part most of us dread is the question of “how do I entertain a baby while I’m stuck on a plane for hours and hours on end?” Oddly enough, it’s easier than it would be, say, at home. The novelty factor of being on a plane will provide a lot of free entertainment. There’s the plane itself, all the strange people, funny windows, you name it. Once the novelty wears off, bring out the toys. Bring whatever your kid likes, plus maybe a few things that are new, and dole them out a bit at a time. I recommend toys that don’t roll because they inevitably fall on the floor, and inevitably the plane is tilted, and inevitably they roll 12 rows up…(my baby’s pacifier fell on the floor half a dozen times on one flight alone—yeah, that was fun). Also don’t overlook the entertainment value of novel objects, novel seatmates, and some walks down the aisle.
Diapers: Whatever kind of diaper plan you’ve currently got going, diaper changes on a plane kinda suck. The bathrooms usually don’t have a changing table (or if they do, it’s a quarter of the size of the ones in most places), and the quarters are super cramped anyway. I remember having to do it on the toilet with the seat down. I brought a bunch of diapers (more than I knew I’d ever need, because you just never know) put each one in a plastic bag (for containment purposes--good way to use all those annoying produce bags). Bring a towel or blanket or something to put down because having to change diapers on planes/airports on those questionable surfaces is pretty sketchy.
Food: I’m assuming that your 12 month old eats, so bring plenty of baby-friendly food, because it’s really hard to find that kind of stuff in the airport, IMO. I put my snacks in clear plastic baggies/containers so it’s easy to see what is in there (spares you the necessity of having to open everything for TSA). While you’re at it, make sure to bring snacks/food for you. (I go a bit overboard on the food thing because I have blood sugar issues and I’d rather have too much than run out in an inconvenient place).
Getting around the airport: Having a baby that doesn’t walk is a mixed blessing. On one hand, you don’t have to worry about them running off in the airport and hopping on a flight to Rome. On the other hand, carrying a child through the airport is a PITA, no matter how you shake it. No matter what you may have heard to the contrary, if you go through security with a babe in a carrier (like an ergo), you will be asked to remove the kid from the carrier. Strollers have to be collapsed to go on the conveyer thing, and that is a PITA as well. People will glare at you while you’re trying to figure out how to get all that crap through the security screen and no, the TSA employees will NOT help you (although some of the other travelers might). If you elect to bring a stroller, check it at the gate (it’s real easy), not with the baggage. Yeah, for me the worst part was getting my babe through security, after that, the rest was a breeze.
That’s a lot, I know, but if it helps…